As a digital entrepreneur or aspiring digital nomad, you are a rare breed. Even though the term is gaining in popularity – 44.000 people search for “digital nomad” on Google every month – there are still very few people who live a true life of freedom.
This freedom to travel and explore whilst you work is at the core of the digital lifestyle.
However, freedom and individuality do not mean that we are not seeking community, support and meaningful connections.
Bloggers and influencers have called all kinds of places digital nomad hotspots, for example Tbilisi, Georgia; Bansko, Bulgaria; or Taipei, Taiwan. But not all of them have a truly developed expat and nomad eco-system. So, I am not trying to list every place that someone has called digital nomad hotspot (for this, check Nomad List) but highlight the places that have built a substantial expat and nomad community.
Friendly and Playful Central and South America
Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Mexico
Playa del Carmen and Tulum lie about 1 hour per minivan apart on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Both of them are easily accessible via the airport in Cancun.
Vibe: Playa del Carmen is bigger and the beach strip can be full of American tourists looking for parties and cheap drinks. However, Playa del Carmen has a series of vegan restaurants, health food stores and co-working spaces that cater to the hipster digital nomad.
Tulum is known to be more spiritual and you will find women’s circles, ecstatic dances and yoga studios in the village as well as at the beach. The beach front is lined with beautiful and stylish beach clubs (think Bali, Ibiza) and hosts international DJs for tropical, pseudo-spiritual parties. I have never seen Tulum better described than in this post “Who killed Tulum?”
Community: If you are looking for good life in a tropical paradise, whilst maintaining the infrastructure of a city and good events for business-minded people, you will like Playa del Carmen.
If you are more drawn to the yoga community, plant medicines or techno parties, Tulum will be your vibe. The village is way more grounded and backpacker-y whilst the beach resorts are way more stylish and will look significantly better on your Instagram.
Nosara, Costa Rica
Vibe and Community: Costa Rica is not a cheap digital nomad destination but beautiful. Nosara became the home of international successful entrepreneurs interested in making a positive impact, personal growth and intentional community building.
Vibe: Medellin is the city of the internal spring. Colombians are super sweet and friendly. El Poblado is the hipster neighborhood to find stylish coffee shops and cool restaurants or bars. When I was there in 2016, leaving your laptop out was not an option! So, you will have to show more care for personal belongings and personal safety.
Community: International digital entrepreneurs of all walks of life gather here and the amount of coworking spaces and events is expanding. You will not find the same hippie-vibes as in Nosara, Tulum or Bali but more people drawn towards going out, restaurants and bars – city life that is.
Beautiful City Life in Europe
Vibe: Lisbon is beautiful. More and more hipster restaurants are opening (try Prado) and you will find some amazing rooftop bars. You will have all the comforts of a city but the nightlife in Barcelona, Amsterdam or Berlin is probably more interesting. Lisbon has a great European vibe though!
Community: The digital nomad community is huge and still, if you start going to the weekly events, you will tend to see the same people. You will meet entrepreneurs and freelancers interested in traveling, marketing, fitness and personal growth.
Vibe: Another city that feels truly European, that is great architecture, historical city center and great culture. Plus, Budapest comes with a great nightlife if you like bars.
Community: Self-starters, internet entrepreneurs. As with most big cities listed in this guide, the yoga crowd will be smaller but the amount of location independent entrepreneurs thriving for personal freedom and personal growth will be sold.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Vibe: If you walk through Chiang Mai’s hipster area Nimman in November to January, you will start running into your digital nomad friends in the street. The cheap food, sunshine and stylish cafes are very welcome to laptop workers and everyone is congregating around there.
If you want even more city life, Bangkok is an option but you will probably find more digital nomads in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Community: The peak season in Chiang Mai is during the European winter when you will meet digital nomads from all over the world. Especially because the Dynamite Circle community is hosting a conference in Bangkok just before. In general, I have come to know Chiang Mai more as a city for SEOs, dropshippers and beginner nomads. There are meetups and events several times a week and skill-share sessions and masterminds are very common.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Vibe: Koh Phangan has main faces. You might know this island for its infamous full moon parties and the masses of tourists that come with it. But Koh Phangan is also known for yoga, tantra and being a center of personal development.
Community: I personally prefer the West of the island where yoga and healthy food rule. But you can find many people here, events are common (both business and spiritual) and the white sand beach and palm trees make a perfect social media backdrop.
Canggu und Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Vibe: Magical Bali, I lived here for two years because it is a hipster’s dream come true. Canggu is on the South of the island and full of stylish cafes and clothing shops. The town is focused around fitness, wellness and healthy living. You will find crossfit gyms, spas and saunas with cold plunge and cafes that serve vegan food as well as paleo or keto.
Ubud is the center for those seeking spiritual experiences. You will find yoga studies and retreats, sound healing, women’s circle, temple nights, tantra and authentic relating. Both towns have coworking spaces that are world-famous but Ubud is definitely stronger on vegan food, crystals and personal growth.
Community: You will find more entrepreneurs and biohackers in Canggu and the nightlife (even though still limited) is better because of a handful of big beach clubs that opened in the recent years. You will have an event at a coworking space several times a week and laptop nomads are to be found everywhere. In Ubud, you will find more yogis, healer and retreat hosts.
Finding the right community for you.
If I was to paint some broad strokes, I would say that you find more yoga, spirituality, healthy living and intentional communities in the tropical places and islands. Tulum, Nosara, Koh Phangan and Ubud, Bali seem to attract a somewhat similar crowd.
People who work remotely and might have quite substantial businesses but are deeply invested in personal growth, Burning Man, yoga, conscious relating and holistic well-being.
The cities Playa del Carmen, Medellin, Lisbon, Budapest and Chiang Mai seem to attract more the Tim Ferris fans, seeking financial freedom and location independence. You will find more business related events and the passion around fitness and personal growth might be more focused on productivity and business growth than spiritual awakening.
For me, living in Canggu, Bali, for two years was the perfect mix of blending those two worlds. I feel attracted to both, consider myself part of both and yet can’t quite seem to choose.
Hit the contact page on the top, and send me a message: What is your favorite?